I have embarked upon a devotional study of 1 Samuel. The book presents the life of Israel’s last major Judge and first major prophet – Samuel.
He becomes the mouthpiece of God. First Samuel 3:1 states: The Word of the LORD was rare, which means, there was no divine revelation. Through Samuel, God uses him to fulfill the role of a revelation giver to Israel.
Chapter 1 introduces us to Samuel’s family. His father Elkanah had married Hannah. But she was barren and could not have children. The text tells us God had closed her womb (1:5). Elkanah took a second wife, Peninnah, who would bear the children. She became an adversary of sorts to Hannah because of this role.
Hannah, then, goes to the Lord with her trial. When she and her husband were in Shiloh at the tabernacle during their annual pilgrimage of worship, Hannah prays. She vows a vow: If God would grant her a child she in turn would give the child back to the Lord. God grants her request, and shortly after their return from the tabernacle, Hannah becomes pregnant with Samuel.
When she returns to the tabernacle a year later, her heart is filled with praise to the LORD for the work He had done in her life. The prayer she offers is filled with rich, theological insight. This prayer not only record’s Hannah’s final words in 1 Samuel, but it is one of the longer prayers made by a woman in Scripture. Moreover, Hannah’s prayer emphasizes one great theme – God is the sovereign reverser of fortune. In Hannah’s case, a humble woman gave birth to the child who will become one of the greatest prophets in all Israel.
There are some important factors to consider in Hannah’s prayer that can model for us a theological mindset when we ourselves pray. Allow me to consider four expressions of theological praying:
I. Hannah’s Exaltation (2:1-2)
Hannah begins her prayer by offering praise to the Lord. She speaks of “smiling at her enemies” and “rejoicing in God’s salvation.” Though we thinking of salvation in the sense of being delivered from our sin, in Hannah’s mind, God is her “deliverer” in that He has rescued her from the reproach of childlessness. She smiles at her enemy, Peninnah, who routinely mocked her for her condition.
She is no longer afraid of Peninnah because she is really no longer needed as a surrogate mother.
God is the “Rock” of her “salvation.” As if she recalls Deuteronomy 32:30, 31. In this time of spiritual apostasy, Hannah has a high view of God.
II. Hannah’s Admonition (2:3)
Peninnah is not specifically named, but Hannah’s words are obviously directed toward her. God is a God of knowledge. He knew of Hannah’s plight. In fact, one inspired footnote, as already pointed out, is that God was the one who brought upon Hannah’s barrenness. But God had mercy, heard Hannah’s prayer, and it is left to Him to weigh actions and to change her circumstances.
III. Hannah’s Celebration (2:4-8)
Hannah rejoices in how God has sovereignly changed her situation. Situations, in which people thought things were going well, are completely changed in an instant. Those who thought they were the certain victor are quickly destroyed. Those who were on the verge of annihilation gain victory over their enemies.
Notice her contrasts:
– Military defeat/military victory
– Those with plenty now have nothing/those with nothing now have plenty
– Those with many children/the one with none
– Those who are rich are made poor/those who are poor are made rich
– God brings unexpected death/makes alive or preserves one’s life
God is sovereign over all the affairs of all people.
IV. Hannah’s Preservation (2:9-10)
Hannah is confident in light of God’s faithfulness to answer her prayer that God will guard the feet of His saints. In other words, He keeps them secure and from stumbling. Regardless of a wicked man’s strength, if God is your protector, he cannot prevail, for God will act in swift judgment against those who will oppose His saints.
All of these points are areas where we can direct our prayers when we pray. A solid prayer life reflects a heart that has a solid theology. Hannah demonstrates she had a sound theology of who God was, what He did, and how He acted.
That should be our focus as well when we pray. Who God is and how He moves in His sovereignty should be the focus of our prayers.